“How could something as beautiful and serene be misunderstood for anything else?”
In Srinagar, I stayed in a house boat with a local family. It was a really sudden plan and as soon as I got out the shared taxi to walk towards my hotel, a man approached saying to check his house boat just once. He started regarding me as his sister and no matter how much all my senses were on a high alert all the time, he understood and tried his best to make me feel comfortable.
I used to have lunch and dinner together with his family – elder brother, wife, a son and a daughter. And then they told me how everything is misunderstood here in Srinagar. How much they would like to have peace but because of a few rodents in the society who are paid to cause a chaos, destroys their name and the faith of others in their religion. Seeing the truth in their eyes and hearing their stories made me feel how unnecessary us humans are at times in the name of our beliefs.
And the night ended with him singing a verse he wrote on his old tattered notebook of how much he suffered in the old times due to militants and how much he misses the beauty of the old Dal Lake (the irony of two separate worlds).
I have shared this story to let you know, if you are planning to go to Srinagar, just go! Despite whatever news you have heard in the past or how much political instability is there. Now, this does not mean to visit the place during the riots! But when Srinagar is calm it will make you feel at home like any other place in India. Tourists are safe! Kashmiris here treat tourists with respect and the locals are actually gem at hearts! This is not just my experience, but the countless number of people I have spoken to. Below, you will find all the details regarding Srinagar and how you can spend your two days here!
Shangri La House Boat – 9906629903
There are many options in Srinagar with a variety of rooms to stay in. You can stay in a hotel or in a hostel as well since Zostel has now opened in Srinagar. But despite all this, I would still prefer to stay in a houseboat and especially in Shangrilla House Boat! I haven’t met such a kind family ever! In them I trust! They took care of me like their little sister and I am truly thankful for it! Despite all this, their rooms, washrooms and amenities were perfect and hygienic! They will also serve you home cooked food and have a dining area where you can sit and enjoy Dal Lake while munching away.
During the off-season, the cost of one room is INR 1,500 and during peak season (mostly in May and June) it goes up to INR 3,000. All the cost also includes the three times meal at their place.
You can contact them on 9906629903 (Wahid) or 9831183948 (Ajaz) for bookings.
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Seeing the pictures of Kashmir is one thing but experiencing it in person is an entire different experience. Walking on wooden planks, watching rows of shikharas, witnessing reflections while a herd of sheep cross paths with you, seeing lotus blossoming as the first ray of sunshine fall on them. I have never felt so much love before. Today I lived life in abundance. . 📷 Tripod #Solo
Day 0 – If you are reaching Kashmir Via Road
If you are planning to travel through road you would have to change the transport in Jammu. I travelled back from Srinagar to Delhi by road and the ride was not that bad although a really long one. There are several routes that you can opt.
The closest train station to Srinagar is Jammu. You can take a train till Jammu and then a bus or a shared taxi till Srinagar. The train will take about 10-13 hours to reach Jammu. Then from Jammu, buses are infrequent and have fixed timings of departure. You can easily get a shared taxi though. It takes about 10-12 hours to reach from Jammu to Srinagar’s TRC area. Although, don’t forget to book the train well in advance on www.irctc.co.in since the seat fills up fast.
If you are taking a flight directly to Srinagar, you can leave from your respective place early in the morning and reach Srinagar by 10 AM. From the airport, there are regular buses, private taxis or shared taxis (that costs INR 100/-) running to all corners of Srinagar. The ride to ghats from where you will take a shikara for your house boat will take about an hour. Rest, get freshen up and enjoy the shikara ride today to the places as mentioned below –
Seen as an island in Dal Lake, the corners are decorated with Chinar trees (Maple trees). The reflection of these trees in Dal Lake is so mesmerizing. In fact, you can take your snacks or lunch here and enjoy a meal sitting on this small island as I did. Plus, if you are visiting this place during the month of October (basically winters), you will see the red colour trees sparkling in Dal Lake. Google it and you will know what I mean 🙂
From Char China, move towards Dargah. In between, you will cross several beautiful gardens and reflections of other houses and trees. Hazratbal Shrine is a heaven on Earth. It is so peaceful with such glorious vibes. Women are not allowed to enter, however, even from outside the white marble has something spectacular speaking out and you stand there in awe marvelling the glory of its structure. In fact, nearby you can stroll around the market and eat street food (especially for non-vegetarians). I am a vegetarian so I bought their sweet halva wrapped inside a roti and walked around the nearby garden savouring the moment.
TIP: Ladies, do not forget to carry dupatta to this place and cover your heads even if you are strolling in the market. Marks a sign of respect among the community.
A eutrophic lake that is connected to Dal Lake through a narrow strait. This lake is so full with greenery due to grass and algae that you feel you have entered a whole new world! In fact, many tourists prefer staying here as well because of the calm and serenity as compared to Dal Lake. It can be easily reached by shikara once you turn from Dargah. You can also reach this lake directly from the ghats itself.
After the shikara ride, you can spend your afternoon having lunch or snacks at Chai Jai. Chai Jai is a really authentic cafe and one should not miss this place. The vibe of the cafe is really tremendous and we spend the evening while playing jenga over a cup of tea. You can have snacks here – from pizza to shakes, this place offers everything. Not only the food, but even the interiors of this place is also commendable.
Strolling Through the Market
From Chai Jai, move out to the streets to explore the market area. You can shop and buy Kashmiri dresses here. The lane is full of such shops and has European vibes during the sunset time.
Start today early to get the best of Vegetable Market. Read below to know why –
Today, start the day early at 5 AM. This is because Vegetable Market happens only early in the morning for an hour. We left on shikara from the house boat itself early in the morning. Here you can buy seeds of various plants and see shikaras strolling from one corner to another selling vegetables. The early morning hues and chirping of the birds add a peaceful essence to the entire scene. It is something one should not miss in Srinagar.
After the vegetable market, come back to the house boat, have breakfast, freshen up and leave for the roadside adventures. Pari Mahal cannot be reached with the help of a shikara. You have to hire a cab to reach here but the place is worth every penny. From here, you will be able to see the entire stretch of Srinagar along with the beautiful Dal Lake. This place is an abode to fairies.
This temple is the highest point in Srinagar and can be seen from the farthest off the location. Half of the journey needs to be commenced on foot to reach this temple. A bus or a taxi can drop you off midway. Note that, cameras are not allowed here but you can capture the beauty of Srinagar by going a further down on the roadside.
Additionally, if you want to go on a trek, I did cover Tarsar Marsar trek which is a week’s trek. You can read about it here. It also has the details of the local guide.
What to Wear and Things to Carry
I really wanted a local touch and be as involved in the culture as possible. Hence decided to wear ethnic. The colour of the suits was perfectly blending with the subtle colours of Dal Lake and I felt comfortable as well. Of course, if you will see the tourists, you will as well see them in shorts. So its up to you what you chose.
For men, it is simple, isn’t it? But maybe try wearing kurta for a day to blend in the culture. TIP: In Nehru Park (which is near Shangri La house boat), you can also get yourself clicked in the local Kashmiri suits and dresses.
I am also listing down some key things that you should not miss while in Srinagar –
- Identity Proof – It is always better to keep an identity proof with you all the time. It is not because something might happen or due to something I faced. Srinagar is heavily guarded and you will notice this as soon as you enter here. At every road and every corner, you will see policemen. And I was told at times they do ask for identity proofs just for a simple check
- Postpaid Sim Card – In Kashmir, the local sim of your city won’t work, especially the prepaid sims. Please have a postpaid sim ready before leaving for Kashmir (More on that below)
- A Sweater or Warm Clothes – Even if you are planning to travel to Kashmir during summers, do carry a sweater despite the weather. Early mornings and nights gets colder and if you are going to the Vegetable Market or riding in a shikara, you will feel very cold due to the cool breeze from the Dal Lake
Connectivity in Srinagar
In Srinagar, prepaid sim cards do not work, unless the prepaid sims are bought from Kashmir itself. So it is better to carry postpaid sims along with you while travelling to Srinagar.
I bargained from a local who was ready to give me a sim card for 10 days for INR 100/-. Otherwise, you can also go to a mobile store in Srinagar to get yourself a sim.
Note that, Jio has a network in Kashmir in case you have Jio postpaid sim.
Typical Cost for Two Days Stay in Kashmir
Stay in Shangri La House Boat
Shangri La House boat during the off-season costs INR 1,500 and in the season it costs INR 3,000. This costs also includes food.
Alternatively, if you are travelling on a budget you can also check out the hotels on www.booking.com or Zostel.
A full day Shikara ride will cost about INR 1,000 to INR 1,500. In this ride, you would be able to cover most of the places like Dargah, Char Chinar and Nigeen Lake.
One can only reach Pari Mahal and Shankaracharya Temple by taking a cab which again would cost INR 1,200. To visit Shankaracharya Temple you can also take a bus that goes halfway to the temple and rest half way you can cover on foot.
Chai Jai would cost about INR 300-400 for a full meal. If you stay in Shangri La house boat, the cost of your food is covered in INR 1,500/INR 3,000 itself. However, you can easily go to the market and have meals for INR 200.
Hope this was helpful! Kashmir has my heart but if you have any questions, please drop a comment below! Enjoy Srinagar!
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Pitcure Taken Near the Vegetable Market, Dal Lake How could something as beautiful and serene as this could be misunderstood for anything else? I stayed in a house boat with a local family while in Srinagar. It was a really sudden plan and as soon as I got out the shared taxi to walk towards my hotel, a man approached saying to check his house boat just once. He started regarding me as his sister and no matter how much all my senses were on a high alert he tried his best to make me feel comfortable. I used to have lunch dinner together with his family – elder brother, wife, a son and a daughter. And then they told me how much everything is misunderstood here. How much they would like to have peace but because of a few rodents in the society who are paid to cause a chaos, destroys their name and the faith of others in their religion. Seeing the truth in their eyes and hearing their stories made me feel how unnecessary us humans are at times in the name of our beliefs. And the night ended with him singing a verse he wrote on his old tattered notebook of how much he suffered in the old times due to militants and how much he misses the beauty of the old Dal Lake (the irony of two separate worlds) #Solo @incredibleindia